The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Restless Legs Syndrome Treatment: White Plains Doctors Explore Options

Posted by on Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

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When it comes to Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) treatment, one must first find the cause. Last year, researchers at the Institute of Neurogenomics at the Helmholtz Center in Munich, Germany discovered the underlying causes of RLS. After studying 46,000 people, they discovered 13 new gene variants that raise the risk of developing the condition, which affects up to 10% of US and European populations.

People with “restless” feet and legs experience a host of terribly unpleasant sensations, ranging from itching, aching, and tugging, to the feeling of insects crawling beneath their skin. RLS most commonly strikes at night, but can also trouble people during long flights, road trips, theatre performances, or while dining out. Fatigue worsens the severity of the symptoms. Imbalance of the neurotransmitter dopamine is the cause of these feelings, traced back to errors in embryonic nervous system development.

restless legs syndrome treatment
People with “restless” feet and legs experience a host of terribly unpleasant sensations, ranging from itching, aching, and tugging. [Image Source: Shutterstock.com]

Restless Legs Syndrome Treatment at Home

What works for one person may not work for another. It will take some trial and error, but try these remedies:

Get moving

The only way to ease the feeling of RLS is to get up and move. In general, the best prevention is regular, moderate exercise activities for 30-60 minutes a day. Try walking, cycling, swimming, and yoga to fight off the worst RLS symptoms. Stretching before bed and taking a warm bath could make for a great nighttime routine. Avoid strenuous exertion activities that bring on joint fatigue and stress.

Try hot/cold therapy and massage

During an acute attack, hop in the tub or shower, or massage your legs with a hot towel. Just 15-20 minutes is all that is needed to bring relief for a minor attack. A more severe attack may require alternating 20 minutes of heat with 15 minutes of cold to reduce muscle strain and inflammation. Massage your legs with a foam roller afterward.

Eat and drink well

Previously, anecdotal evidence linked RLS to low iron levels, which is why it was believed that many pregnant women developed RLS. Supplements for iron and magnesium may help mild cases. Iron is poorly absorbed in pill form, so intravenous iron may be recommended. Cutting out caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can ease the condition in some patients. Avoid eating late at night if you can. Folic acid rich foods like asparagus, spinach, and kale can help. Drinking eight glasses of water a day can also help.

Avoid certain medications

Cold and flu remedies, antihistamines, and antidepressants can trigger RLS in some people, though the reasons are not well understood. Medications linked to RLS symptoms include prochlorperazine, metoclopramide, haloperidol, phenothiazine, fluoxetine, sertraline, and diphenhydramine.

Consider other medications

There is no cure, but taking medication can dramatically improve quality of life for severe RLS sufferers by mimicking dopamine activity in the brain or changing the way nerve cells communicate. FDA-approved drugs for RLS include four classes of medication:

  • Dopaminergic agents (also used to treat Parkinson’s)
  • Sedatives (to help with sleep quality)
  • Alpha-2-Delta Ligands (to ease insomnia, RLS pain, and impulse control)
  • Pain relievers (for the most severe RLS)

Thalidomide is a drug that typically treats certain cancers, but researchers are looking into how it may help RLS sufferers. It can, however, cause serious birth defects, so cannot be taken by pregnant women.

Try vibration therapy

Strength training equipment like the Vibe Tech One has made a considerable difference for some RLS sufferers. One woman said she didn’t have any episodes of RLS for four months after 10 minutes of vibration therapy. After it returned, she made a point to go back for therapy every few months. At this point, the new device is FDA and Medicare approved, but it may not be covered by insurance for RLS treatment.

Restless Legs Syndrome Treatment in NYC

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms believed to be associated with RLS, it’s best to obtain a diagnosis from a skilled professional. The podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine can help. Our team of board-certified doctors can diagnose you and give you advice on restless legs syndrome treatment, either at home or in our office. Contact us today!

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.